PIAC ‘cautiously welcomes’ commitment to prohibit religious discrimination

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre cautiously welcomes reports that NSW Attorney General Mark Speakman will develop legislation to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religious belief.

‘The failure of the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of religious belief is a real gap that should be addressed,’ PIAC CEO Jonathon Hunyor said.

‘However, the introduction of protections in this area must not undermine existing protections for other groups which allow them to live their lives free from discrimination.’

PIAC is particularly concerned that any Religious Discrimination Bill should provide equivalent coverage to existing attributes, such as sex, race and marital status, and avoid the pitfalls of both the One Nation ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill in NSW, and the Commonwealth Government’s Second Exposure Draft Religious Discrimination Bill.

‘We would hope to see a Bill that provides standard protections against religious discrimination, consistent with the protection for other grounds – not legislation which instead encourages discrimination against women, LGBTI people, and people with disability’ said Mr Hunyor.

‘Recent Bills at the NSW and Commonwealth levels have prioritised religious beliefs over the rights of others, with privileges provided to schools, charities and even some commercial businesses to discriminate against a range of groups including people of minority faiths or those of no faith. This is a divisive approach that should be rejected by the Attorney General.’

The Attorney’s commitment adds weight to recent calls for a comprehensive review of the Anti-Discrimination Act, as articulated in PIAC’s recent report Leader to Laggard: The case for modernising the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act

‘The lack of prohibitions on religious discrimination is far from the only serious deficiency in the NSW Anti-Discrimination Act,’ PIAC Policy Manager Alastair Lawrie said.

‘Other gaps include the absence of any requirement to make reasonable adjustments for people with disability, no obligations on employers to prevent sexual harassment, and narrow and out-dated LGBTI terminology which leaves bisexuals, non-binary people and intersex people without any protection whatsoever.’

‘We reiterate our call for Attorney General Speakman to commission an independent review of the entire Act, and use the opportunity of adding religious belief to address the many other serious problems of this inadequate and ineffective law.’

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